tv Andrea Mitchell Reports MSNBC February 18, 2010 1:00pm-2:00pm EST
personnel indicated by their jackets in and around this building and we're waiting to get more information on whether everyone was safely evacuated. this was sudden. you've got witnesses on the scene who say they heard a roar and then saw a fireball in this very busy part of austin, texas. let me bring in nbc's pete williams. he, of course, covers the pentagon and all aspects of defense for us here. pete, what have you been able to learn? >> all right. this is what i'm told by law enforcement officials on my justice department beat. they say that this morning, local police received a domestic disturbance call at the man who was in the this plane, the pilot's address. by the time they got there, the man was in the process of fleeing. he, as you said, attempted to set that fire in his house and fled. and he fled to the airport where he stole the plane. now, the precise reason why he
stole the plane, whether it was to escape, whether it was to commit suicide by crashing the plane into the ground, or whether it was to attack a specific building is, i think, it's fair to say, unknown at this point. there are theorys and i think you're hearing from the other reports that there are different theorys, which is not surprising, so early in an investigation. but the federal law enforcement officials that i've been talking to say they have no idea why the man crashed the plane, whether e he was intending to focus on those specific buildings, whether he was trying not to crash the plane, or what. and i don't know yet how experienced a pilot he was. he obviously knew something about flying planes. he managed to get it off the ground, which is not something that anyone could just jump into an airplane and carry out. so there's a full-blown investigation to try to find out precisely what happened here.
obviously, the pilot did not survive the crash. so he can't be questioned. but, at this point, there's an effort to try to figure out what was going on here. >> well, we know, pete, his wife survived this house fire. his wife, sheryl, and daughter, got out of the fire and were taken to a neighbor's home. she'd be able to give authorities some detail on what happened in the time before the fire. and also to note, kxan is saying this gentleman, joseph andrew stack that we're talking about here, that he's a software engineer who is a pilot and he does fly out of the georgetown airport, pete. >> right. and that will help the investigation to flesh that out. but i want to stress a couple of things. first of all, it seems obvious to say, but we should nonetheless say it, this does not appear to be what we would conventionally call an act of terrorism. it began with a domestic disturbance. a man, first of all, trying to
set his house on fire and then fleeing to the airport. but i think the point is, it's too soon to know why he did this. why did he crash the plane? was he intending to crash it? was he intending to target a specific build? i think, you know, unless he was very familiar with seeing these buildings from the air. now, if he's a pilot, he might know. he might have had a mental picture of, you know, if he was trying to target a specific government building, but i think it's just way too soon to know why he crashed the plane and why he crashed it into those buildings. if, in fact, he intended to hit those buildings on purpose. >> i think everyone agrees with you on that for sure, with this investigation, pete. let's go back to the detail. it has been confirmed he stole this plane? >> that's what i'm told by law enforcement officials, that he stole the plane, that it did not belong to him. >> and as you can imagine, that then brings up what we were talking about with tom costello, and something that's been brought up since 9/11, the security. not just at our big airports, but also at these smaller
airports, where we know that an aircraft can be used as a deadly weapon. >> reporter: ever since 9/11, it has been a huge concern of the federal government. there's been repeated pushes by the department of homeland security, but the faa, to get the owners and operators of what are called fixed-based operators, the people who rent out planes, who charter planes, who own their own private planes to make sure that the planes are secured when they're on the ground, so that no one can get in them who's not supposed to be into them. now, it's possible that he rented planes periodically, so that he may have had some in that a normal person wouldn't, was nevertheless, it certainly points out that concern, you're absolutely right, about the security of private aviation. >> nbc justice correspondent, pete williams. thank you, pete. again, we're looking, contessa, at live pictures coming in. and when this camera does push into that building where that gaping hole is, you still see
flames, still see what's burning inside that build. this is tape right now, but we were seeing video earlier of the fire still burning in some parts of this building. contessa? >> tamron, thank you very much. with me on the phone is mary skoo schiavo, a former d.o.t. inspector general. assuming you heard pete's report there about this beginning with a domestic disturbance and the theft of a plane, mary, how would inspectors now go about trying to piece together the puzzle of why this crash happened? >> well, as in any crash, they're going to start with a lot of the records and a lot of indications that they can find from the records, both with the plane and at this airport. now that we have this piece of information about him going to an airport where he was known, it also lays bare the problems with the federal program on security at airports other than big commercial passenger airports, because what the government says is, well, you should know who's hanging around the airport and you should report anyone who looks
suspicious. if this person was known around the airport and had even rented planes there before, no one would have thought to report him as suspicious, even if he was getting to a plane. so they're going to start with the records on the ground and also look at the records, for example, the maintenance records on this plane so they can rule out there was anything wrong with the plane, that it had recent maintenance, for example, on the steering linkages, or assuming that the fellow intentionally took off the plane and maybe was trying to get out of the area, that there wasn't something wrong with the plane. it doesn't look like that. >> we're seeing the video right now of this house fire. just to take the viewers back, this house is now the subject of an investigation as well. it looks like investigators are looking at this for a time line. that this man, joseph stack, was involved in some kind of domestic dispute. and the local police get called to this house. joseph stack sets his home on fire and then flees. he flees to the georgetown airport, which looks like it's about a 20-minute drive or so away from his home, steals an
airplane and then takes this plane about a half an hour drive south to this echelon building and the plane crashes into the echelon building now. again, this, pete williams reporting that investigators are looking at this as a stolen plane. they believe this man stole the plane from the georgetown municipal airport. that it was not one that he owned in this case. do they have to take this back to the very beginning? obviously, they used those clues from the local police being called to his house for the domestic disturbance, but they have to look at the metal here and the way the crash happened. >> absolutely. they will have to look at all of those pieces. and in particular, they're undoubtedly tracking down the owner of the plane, the people at the airport, because that's going to be an important clue. what was he like when he got to the airport. did he say, hey, mr. whomever owns the plane, can i take the
plane, or was he in a disturbed state and just took the plane. all of that will play into their decisions as to what was happening on this flight. it did not appear to be a mechanical problem, however. >> there was some speculation as the amount of damage this small mane did, and there you can see it, that the whole front of this building looks like it has been hit with a crater here. the windows are gone, it's a big, black hole. and then we heard from eyewitnesss, a massive fireball erupted from the crash impact site. there was some speculation about whether there might have been who knows, explosives or whatever on the plane. but it seems like a guy who was fleeing wouldn't have time to do that. could you make that much damage just from the small plane? >> yes, you can. everybody probably will remember when i mentioned the cory liedel plane. that was a very small plane that went into a new york city high-rise. there was a large fire there, smoke and flames going up the side of the building. and here, because there was fire in the building, the
firefighters and the people in the building themselves knocked out many of these glass windows. firefighters have already confirmed that they took out some of the glass and knocked them out to get the smoke out of the building to save lives. so, yes, a small plane can make a big hole. there was a teenager in florida in about 2002, stole a plane, crashed it into a high-rise in miami. that was intentional. people first thought that might have been a terrorist attack and it was a teen that did that. a big hole there too. >> all right. mary, thanks a lot. let's go back to kxan's coverage. they have their reporter outside this house that may have link to the plane crash. >> reporter: -- that could be the connection to the tragedy of the plane flying into the building at 183, just a short time after this fire broke out. that's all we've been able to confirm for now. david scott. >> david, well done. so they've got their local reporters there on the scene, tamron, but as pete williams was saying, it appears now that this may have -- the whole time line may have started with a call to local police about a domestic
disturbance in that house. >> and kxan is also reporting that at 1:30 eastern time, the austin police department will give some type of update on this investigation here. they're obviously looking into whether this pilot intentionally targeted the irs, which is housed in there. no confirmation on that, but that is one of the pieces of this investigation that'sing bei being looked at at this point. we're still watching the video of the water pouring, floor to floor. they've not moved, obviously, any of this debris. as you can imagine, it's extremely hot. when our own tom costello talks about the amount of fuel that would have been on this aircraft, georgetown is just a stone's throw away from austin. it's just outside of austin. so he would have had -- if that was his starting point -- an incredible amount of fuel, as tom indicated, if the plane was full at that point, this cherokee 140. you see all of these investigators there on the perimeter of the building, walking back and forth. we've pointed out multiple
times, but it bears saying again. you've got fbi agents out there on the scene. the fire department, obviously, austin officials, and the ntsb, the national transportation safety board, they've got investigators on the way to the scene as well. and this is not just the focus, it is also the home of the man believed to have been piloting this aircraft. that home caught fire this morning. the wife, sheryl, and his daughter, able to get out of that home, but you've got -- this is the home. so this is a two-location investigation, three, honestly, if you consider georgetown airport where pete williams has indicated the plane was stolen from. so you've got the concern of how someone was able to steal a small plane from this airport and then you've got the investigation, of course, where it crashed and this home where two people could have honestly lost their lives, were it not according to the reporter on the scene for the neighbors that rushed in and helped the woman
and her child. let's go to tom costello. tom, look at these live pictures here. we're talking about an investigation, they're still trying to make sure there's no one still in this building. this was sudden, and as you can imagine with a number of offices in there, folks were there, starting their morning. >> yeah, it was a horrific start to the day, obviously. we can tell you that the ntsb is now dispatching a team to austin, texas, to deal with this. and in addition to that, you've got law enforcement officers on the scene. give me just a middle. i was in the middle of tracking something down and i want to get back to it to make sure it's accurate. >> get back to it. we were talking about the workers, when this crash happened, people were running out of there. reports of the ceiling crumbling, windows shattering, flames shooting out the window there. and for a lot of time there, we saw thick, black smoke coming in. i just want to remind you. these are live pictures now, this firefighter getting in really close. these are some images coming in now off of facebook, someone
posted. look at the flames, the impact. again, this reminds us of what the witnesses were saying. they heard a roar, a boom, and then a fireball, which you see from this amateur video coming in from kxan, it says there, courtesy of someone on facebook. this is near 183. a lot of people always on this highway. and across the street, you've got a little complex of where people shop, a couple of little stores. there's a lowe's, i think there's a sam's across from there as well and a garden center, where a lot of people will go in the morning and kind of get trinkets and what not. so you've got people who would have been near there to hear and see what happened, which will be valuable information, as tom costello reported. you've got investigators from the national transportation safety board, who will want to know, what did you hear, what did you see? one witness early on who was interviewed by our affiliate, kxan, he was an experienced -- identified himself as an experienced pilot. and he off the top said, listen, this was a cherokee 140, i saw
it, he talked about that roar. he was spot on and consistent with what we were hearing from each of the witnesses now who were very near him. there will be plenty of people who are either in their car on 183 or just across that highway at that shopping plaza, and not to mention those people who survived it who were in that office building. >> and obviously, the eyewitness who was experienced with planes said that when he was looking at that plane, he said it looked like it was coming down along that highway, coming in very low. he said it nearly clipped the streetlight that's over the parking lot there. and then banked sharply so that it slammed right into that building. and he said it sounded to him, not that there was any engine problem, but that the engine was full bore. that this was just barreling toward that building. and that was from someone who obviously knew something about airplanes and who had watched this unfurl. but as you might imagine, it was a frightening moment for those inside the building when this
happened. apparently smoke right away filled that building and we heard that the firefighters gone in and broken out some of those windows to let some of that smoke out, but right away, the impact of the crash broke a lot of windows and sent that fireball up and over the expressway there that's right by this echelon building. once again, we're being told that the irs does have offices inside that building and that the fbi, though it's not in the same particular building, shares an address. it is located, actually, across the parking lot, but it's part of the complex and shares an address with that echelon building as well. and we are expecting local authorities to give us some new details here. they're expected to hold a news conference at about half past the hour. >> and we have with us paul mccarthy. he's an nbc aviation expert. so, paul, again, a lot of information coming in, but what do you see here that jumps out most as part of this investigation? >> well, you know, there's a lot of circumstantial evidence that
suggests that this may have been an intentional act. one of the things that does come to me is that you've got probably 30 to 40 gallons of fuel on a small airplane of that type. and that's more than enough to make a considerable impact, as one of your other commentators noted. there was a cirrus airplane in new york. so that would have been not surprising to me. >> let me get you to hang on for a second, paul. we want to listen in to kxan. they've got more witnesses and details from the scene. >> -- that's going to be your accelerant that's going to cause most of the fire. and then, obviously, we have a system that we call in the fire department avis, trying to get the first people out. that's the second determine factor when you come up on these scenes, trying to get people out. what is the assessment, can we contain and can we get people out. >> reporter: explain why you came out here. i understand your kids are out here. >> i was working at the house and noticed it and saw it.
it's not every day you get something of this caliber in this area. and, you know, from what i've heard, and i'm also with an austin disaster relief network and we had an alert go out, because we didn't know what the situation was. but these kind of situations, it draws your attention. >> reporter: explain that austin disaster relief network for us. >> austin disaster relief network is a faith-based organization. we've worked with the city of austin and some other local red cross and other charities to help in disaster situations. mainly chemical tasks, natural disasters, things like that. >> reporter: explain, i mean, how do you even recover from something like this? does this bring back memories of 9/11 for you? >> yeah. yeah. a lot of my friends were there. a lot of the firefighters who -- at the time, we were in florida, and we sent a couple guys up there. and i know a couple people that were in there. it's crazy. it brings back the fear and the doubt.
but i've noticed talking to people over there, there's a heightened awareness now. it's not just fear and doubt. >> again, we're listening to a firefighter, a former volunteer firefighter who rushed out to the scene, as he pointed out, you don't see something like this every day, even in his line of work. a huge fire resulting from this crash. let's go to nbc's tom costello. tom, i'm told you've got some new information for us. >> this is what i wanted to give you a little bit ago, but i wanted to double confirm it. we believe that mr. stack, who we believe was piloting this plane, does, in fact, own a piper cherokee. that's not to say that this was the same piper cherokee. however, we are aware that he is the owner of a piper cherokee and that that particular plane was listed to a california address, which matches his software company's address. so i think we can therefore deduce, not only that he was a pilot, but we can also deduce that he is familiar with the piper cherokee. again, we don't know if it's the
same one, because nbc's pete williams is reporting he stole a plane at georgetown, according to sources, georgetown municipal airport, according to law enforcement sources. so did he fly in on his own plane at some point, perhaps last year, and then for whatever reasons, this morning, chose a different plane for his trip. but we do know that there is a piper cherokee registered to joseph stack. >> so, tom, let me ask you, you being the expert here. at the airport in georgetown, what is likely happening right now? obviously, confirmation, a, whether this was a stolen small plane or not. but what else is happening there, to put pieces together in the investigation? >> well, i can't speak to what specifically is happening there, but i think it's safe to say that the police are clearly on the scene there. they're also trying to figure out and put the pieces together. the ntsb will be also visiting that airport as a part of their investigation, which is a normal par for the course. in addition, you've got multiple ntsb teams with multiple expertise going into this particular accident. and they will look, at among
other things, obviously, who was the owner of the plane. was there any possible mechanical issue with the plane? how much fuel was on board? was there any additional accelerant or additional fuel on board? they should be able to determine that through a variety of tests they can conduct. they can look at the flight path of the plane, whether they filed any flight plan. although it would, at this point, seem that that is unlikely, if the plane was stolen. but clearly the investigation now is going to be multipronged. not only the ntsb charged with aviation safety accident investigations, but also clearly a criminal investigation that involves texas authorities and probably the federal authorities as well. >> tom, i want to explore a couple of scenarios. we've explored that whether it was stolen. let's say it's not, if it was his aircraft, his piper cherokee. when you are piloting and go to a small airport, if you file your flight plan, what is customary if he went there this
morning and had his own aircraft there? >> if you are flying below a certain altitude, you do not need to file a flight plan. however, clearly, you can't just run off with somebody else's plane. and so for him to do that, if that is, in fact, what happened, that clearly is a deviation from the norm, to take somebody else's aircraft. >> well, no, that's not what i was -- i was saying that if this were, in fact, his, as you reported, we have a report that he did own -- >> he did own a piper cherokee. we don't know if it's the same one. >> right. if it's the scenario -- we have explored the scenario if it's stole withn stolen, and we know that part of the investigation, if that turns out to be the case. but if this were his aircraft, and he went to the airport, what would be the protocol if it's your airport. do you file a report? what happens at this small airport? >> you don't necessarily have to file any sort of a flight plan if you're going to fly below a specific altitude. let me get back to you with specifics on the altitude.
>> all right. let's get to contessa. >> paul mccarthy is nbc's aviation analyst. when you go to these small municipal airports, paul, and you're -- i mean, obviously, if you're an experienced pilot and you own a small plane, you know how this operates. but, a, do you get automatic access to the hangars where planes are kept or the parking lots where planes are kept? >> nowadaynowadays, general tlis some sort of a lockbox operation to let you get in. but typically, no, on a nice day, low altitude flying, you wouldn't have to have a flight plan, particularly if you were not going somewhere, to another destination. if you were just going up for a flight, for example. and i do not know if georgetown has a control tower, but many if not most of these small airports do not. so what that means is you go out to your airport, ylane, you sta up, look around, make a
broadcast and take off. it's very informal. it's the way it's all been done. there are not a lot of protocols if the person wants to take a small airplane and go flying. it would not be unusual for an individual to go out, get in his airplane, and go without anybody else actually being aware of what was going on. >> in other words, airports that operate like parking lots. if you have a car in the parking lot and you have the keys, you go get in the car. the question was, was this a stolen plane, as investigators are looking into. we're looking at an aerial coming to us from woai. that shot's breaking up somewhat. but the firefighters have done a good job of getting those major hot spots, but now they've got st still wisps of smoke and presumably some hot spots inside the building. in the situation where the
georgetown municipal airport has presumably more than one plane there, now the question, did joseph stack steal a plane or if he owns a piper cherokee, which is the kind of plane that crashed into this building in austin, but it was registered to an address in california, that address belonged to the software company, do you just -- is that a plane that is kept fueled and ready to go, if he was fleeing, as has been reported by the local police from a domestic disturbance call. could he just go, get in that plane and take off? are they kept fueled? >> yes, they are kept fueled. that's the typically, you fuel the airplane when you land. and so it's ready to go the next time, rather than having -- you want to go flying, you don't have to look around for a fuel truck. typically they are fueled when they land. and yes, you could just walk out and go. and as far as whether he used his airplane or somebody else's, they have these big numbers on the side of the airplane.
undoubtedly, they will know what the registration number was for the airplane that he owned. and if they can find that airplane, then he stole an airplane. if they can't find it, then you can make the assumption. the being registration number on the side of the airplane should correlate nicely and make that investigation easier. >> pete williams is finding out from the law enforcement authorities, the justice people he's talking to, that they believe that joseph stack stole a plane from the georgetown municipal airport. but, again, you have our aviation correspondent, tom costello, reporting that joseph stack also owns that same model aircraft. so we're waiting to hear whether that was, indeed, his aircraft. but because of the address discrepancy, that it was registered in california, whether it was considered stolen, and that's where the investigation is leading. >> well, in either case, he did know how to fly that type of airplane. and i would expect, no matter
who owned it, you would find an airplane that was at least partially fueled with 20, 25 gallons of fuel on board. >> and as we can see, that fuel did quite a bit of damage. the impact of the crash did some damage. as it stands now, we're told one person unaccounted for and two people injured, one of those seriously burned, in fact, went to the hospital, was stabilized at the hospital, and then taken to san antonio's burn center there for the burn trauma. paul, in terms of the air traffic control situation, we've been talking about the turn this has taken and the fact that there are a lot of concerns about how easily you can access small municipal airports across this nation. is that a concern for you? >> no, it really isn't. i mean, it's -- i hate to back up on this, obviously, i'm an aviation person, but you could take a car or truck or bus and drive it into a building with identical results.
it just happened to be an airplane. and yet, we don't suggest putting all the cars and trucks and buses under lock and key. and if it's a crime, then the airplane was used as a weapon, just as surely as if it was a gun or a truck or a car or a bus. so i think the focus needs to be on the actor, not quite so much on -- you know, do we put all private airplanes under lock and key? >> i think that's a good point, paul, and i appreciate you sharing your expertise with us. tamron? >> we have tom costello back. what do you have? >> first of all, as you have no doubt just noticed, our colleague, pete williams at the justice department, now his sources in law enforcement are saying the plane was not stolen. the plane was not stoline innst according to pete williams. and joe stack does own a piper cherokee that is registered to his address out in california. two important points. and i wanted to answer your question.
you asked, how would you file a flight plan, would you have to? here's the short answer. i wanted to make sure before i said anything. if you're flying above 1,000 feet, if you're out in the countryside, yes, you should be filing a flight plan. if you are flying below that, generally, you don't have to. however, if you are flying in a controlled area, in other words, a terminal area, a zone around airports, you should be filing a flight plan regardless. so flying into the heart of downtown austin, you know, flying near austin's airport, one would think he should have a flight plan, but at this point, it may well be that his intention was such that he didn't think that it mattered much. >> so, then, with the information you've just provided, pete williams confirming the plane was not stolen. so it's his plane, he walks into the airport, as the aviation expert, paul mccarthy says, they're usually fueled, and he leaves from there. >> yeah. that would clearly, at this point, be the best scenario that
we have. he owned a piper cherokee, a fixed wing single engine plane. the tail memory we have is n2889d as in delta and that he had owned it or had the certificate since 1998 and that it was registered to the same address that he has, that his software company has out in california. >> all right, tom costello confirming now the latest information here is that this joseph stack, the man believed to be the pilot here -- >> tamron, stack. >> joseph stack, joseph andrew stack, the owner of the home that caught fire this morning and then following that, we have this plane crash that is under investigation. he's believed to have been piloting this cherokee 140. and we've been getting some incredible video, different vantage points of the severity of the damage to this building.
and it is, i think, worth noting so far, thankfully, we've not had any confirmation of any fatalities. we've not been told of any serious injuries. there are two people treated, one said to be in good condition, the other person burned and taken to a hospital in san antonio. but when you look at the damage caused after this or during this crash, you see the fire still burning. there are a number of businesses in this seven-story complex. it is amazing that more people -- or that we've not gotten confirmation, thankfully, that more people were not injured in this. we've heard fireball, a roar, exploding window, a fire, you know, going through the, the amount of jet fuel -- or the amount of fuel that tom costello pointed out that was likely on that aircraft, it's amazing. and it is certainly worth noting, as we look into this investigation and wonder what this pilot's situation was at
the time, thankfully, we've not had reporting of the confirmed fatalities here. >> right. we did speak to some officials earlier that they are presuming that the pilot himself was killed. >> right. >> again, the report we have, one person is unaccounted for, but when i spoke with the mayor, he couldn't say whether that person unaccounted for was the pilot or was the person unaccounted for was an office worker, but the workday was well under way. mark rosencourt joins me on the phone now. we understand the ntsb, the national transportation safety board, is sending a team of investigators now to the site of this crash. what will be priority number one? >> they'll be trying to find out if in fact the engine was still operating. they'll try to find out if the controls, the flight controls were operating. they'll be taking a look at as much of the evidence as they possibly can to determine if this aircraft had a mechanical
problem or if there may have been even a medical issue within the aircraft from the pilot. they'll be taking a look and recover the body, doing forensics, working with the local coroner to understand if there was, in fact, a medical issue with the pilot. >> and given what we have learned through investigators, telling nbc, they believe joseph stack and his wife were involved in some kind of domestic dispute at their home in austin, local police were called. joseph stack, they say, the local police are investigating whether he started his house on fire. at any rate, his house burned up. he fled to this georgetown municipal airport, took off in his plane, this plane crashed into this echelon building. does the ntsb investigation proceed the same way given the information we're learning from other investigators? >> we have a series -- the ntsb has a series of property calls that it will go through. they'll be doing interviews, try to get a 72-hour history to see
if there were issues that could have been involved. perhaps there may well be some intoxication, we don't know. but they will be looking at every single thing. nothing is off the table. it wouldn't surprise me that the fbi will be doing a simultaneous investigation and ultimately maybe notes can be compared. >> mark, have you been able to see any of the video of this crash site? >> i have. >> what's your general reaction to what we're seeing? >> this does not, in my judgment, to be anything as a result of an accident. that would be, for example, a crash in a building. we saw something quite similar to this during the cory liedel accident in new york. it hit an apartment building, it exploded, there was a fire. this is nothing extraordinary. there's got to be a reason why he went into this airplane.
it could be he chose to fly into it. it may well be he was attempting to do something and could not maneuver away. the ntsb will be looking very, very carefully. trying to see if there are any radar tapes, listening to anything on the air traffic control radio tapes as well. they'll be looking at every single factor to understand what may have happened here. >> all right. so when we're -- we're now looking at this aerial shot coming to us from woia. the reports that we got is that when this happened, the whole build shook. that's what eyewitnesss are tellitell telling kxan, our nbc affiliate there in austin, texas, and right away office workers began streaming out of this building. how long, at this point, in terms of a time line, mark, are you looking at until the ntsb comes forward and says, all right, definitively, this is what we think happened? >> well, normally it takes anywhere between six and nine months on general aviation
accidents. this, we don't know how long it could take. if it turns out to be a crime, they'll turn the investigation over to the fbi. if it's an accident and we continue to treat it as an accident at this time, it could take anywhere from six to nine months to understand exactly what happened. >> and when you fist started talking to me, you mentioned that the ntsb investigators will look and see whether the engines were still operating, whether the controls were functioning as they were supposed to. the video that we have seen, i haven't seen that the fuselage is in tact. it looks like a bunch of just crumpled metal out there. does that make the job significantly more difficult for figuring out whether the engine was operating properly? >> it is channllenging. but the investigators at the ntsb are the best in the world. they have seen accidents like this before and they have been able to understand what happened and come to a probable cause. >> mark rosenkar, i appreciate
you joining us today and certainly appreciate the experience you can lend to the conversation. you know, you've got investigators from the local level, the fire department, the ntsb, the fbi, already involved at this stage. >> we've got some more details. here's what we know right now. they've checked the first three floors of this building. as you pointed out, there's one person unaccounted for, but the fire itself, for the most part, under control. it is contained, but there are spot fires in this building. engineers are on the scene to make sure that the firefighters who are now going floor to floor, checking for anyone, that they are safe, because the structure, as you can manuimagi is not stable at this point. as the plane crashed in and reports are that the entire front of it just gutted by this aircraft. you have firefighters now going floor to floor looking for anyone who may not have gotten out of there safely. and also, obviously, to put out
those spot fires they are dealing with. let's go to nbc's justice correspondent, pete williams, what have you learned about the individual that is the focus of this investigation? >> just to clarify some of the early reports, the early indication we had from law enforcement officials investigating this crash was that the plane was stolen. they now say they've satisfied themselves that it, in fact, did belong to the pilot, who was in the plane when it crashed in austin this morning. he's identified as joseph stack. they say this whole incident began this morning with a domestic disturbance call to the police. that by the time police got to stack's house, he had already tried to light a fire in the house and had fled. they say it's clear now that he fled to the airport, got his own plane, not a stolen plane, but his own plane, took off, and crashed it a short time later at a complex of federal buildings that include the irs. and it is the building which
it's a commercial building, actually, which houses the irs, that was hit by the plane. now, the big question here, the unresolved question, at this hour, is whether, in fact, mr. stack was targeting that specific building, which houses the irs. did he crash it intentionally to commit suicide or did he crash it intentionally to do that and hit this building as well? that is the big question. no definitive answer. some theorys about what may have happened here, but no definitive indication that, in fact, he was aiming at that building. but we do know that he was a pilot, he had this plane registered to him. so he certainly was a capable pilot. and if he had flown over this area before, he would probably have a good mental view of what the buildings were. and if he had extensive dealings with the irs, he would no specifically which building it was. fair to say that this is not in
what had one would conventionally call an act of terrorism. secondly, i think we can now dispense with the question about the security of private aviation. that doesn't really enter into this, because it wasn't a stolen plane. he, in essence, got in his own plane. so those questions, i think, we can set aside for now as well. >> okay, pete. also, we're getting some information that white house spokesman robert gibbs says the president has been briefed about this. al be it, we now know it was a domestic issue, but gibbs feeling the need to say the president was briefed on this. as all indications have been and it's clear, it was not an act of foreign terrorism. pete williams reporting, this started with a domestic disturbance call involving joseph stack and his family. according to authorities in austin as well as what pete williams is getting on his heen joseph stack attempted to light a fire, successfully, because the home did catch on fire. we saw the video of the smoke
and flames there. his wife, sheryl, as well as his daughter, were able to get out of there safely with the help of neighbors. this is video of the home. the report of him trying to light the fire, successful in lighting that fire. the home there, according to the reporter also on the scene, was heavily destroyed, great destroyed. he then fled that scene, going to georgetown, texas, right outside of austin and now we know he got in his own small plane, this piper cherokee and what happened following that, what was his state of mind, what was he thinking? we do not know. we do, however, know this is where the situation ended, with that plane slamming into the building you are looking at. we do, also, know that firefighters are there, going floor to floor, putting out spot fires, also looking for anyone who may have been trapped in there. they have gone through the first three floors. that was the last report we received. we believe this is a seven-story building.
that's what the reports from kxan were earlier. seven-story build. and they have to make sure, obviously, that this structure is safe for these firefighters to be inside. you see that gaping hole. look at all the debris, spilling all across the feeder row there. and now you've got firefighters in there. you've got to make sure they are safe as they try to put out the fire as well as look for anyone. we have a report of one person unaccounted for. it's not clear if that was a person in the building at the time or nearby, but there's one person unaccounted for. and we've not heard of any confirmed reports of any fatalities. right now we're holding on to that news as good news, obviously, when you look at the damage there, this is a 10:00 a.m. hour, a build that houses a number of offices. an education facility sorbet asd with st. edwards. there was a massage, yoga space in there.
and we know the major focus being the irs. employees in that building as well. they've not shut down traffic on 183. people driving back and forth there. let's go over to contessa with more details on what she has for us now. >> all right. tamron, we're watching this coverage. woai has sent its helicopter up. we got some aerial views of the damage. now we want to listen in to their coverage of this particular crash. okay, well, apparently -- there we go. >> -- over this breaking news situation for a bit now. and as we look at these pictures, it is incredible to see this happening in our state. and we want to pass listening to you that homeland security officials in austin are saying in no way, shape, or form was this terrorism. we know witnesses have been given to the fbi, so that everything the witnesses saw, all that information could be passed along to our local fbi.
we do understand, there is an fbi office located in that building in austin. now, why this person decided to do this, we dona't know. >> that's woai's coverage. that's out of san antonio. not far away. san antonio has received one of the victims of this plane crash, one of the people who was hurt was taken first to the hospital there in austin, stabilized, and then apparently sent right away to san antonio's burn hospital. we're told that that person had some serious injuries due to burns. again, eyewitnesss have told us that there was a major fireball that came pouring out of that crash impact site. and inside the building, multiple fires broke out. we saw huge columns of smoke. so it's actually incredible that only one of the people who were in that building was burned badly enough to be sent to a burn center. and at this point, once again, we're looking at them saying they've gone through now several floors of this building. they've cleared it.
they know that no one has been trapped in there and that people are accounted for. look at the damage. this is from woia's chopper at last flying over the scene. we've been told some of that debris is from the actual impact of the crash, from the resulting fire, but some of that is also because firefighters went in right away and were breaking through windows and things like that to allow some of that smoke to escape. as you can see, they have research boulevard blocked down, but the major thoroughfare there is still open to traffic. and we've seen people slowing down, somewhat, to be able to see what's happening there. this investigation now taking its turn, because local police say they went to the pilot's house earlier today for a domestic dispute. they believe this man, joseph stack, started his house on fire. we've seen video of that home fully engulfed in flames. his wife and daughter apparently escaped that fire.
and joseph stack himself escaped. police told officials they are investigating whether joseph stack fled right from there, hit the georgetown municipal airport, got into his small aircraft, that piper cherokee, and then flew, about 30 miles from the airport to the site of this particular building and crashed into this building. as pete williams so aptly pointed out, the question is now not necessarily which plane crashed, who was behind the controls of that plane, but the question is, why? did something go wrong? was there an engine malfunction? was this an accident? or was this an intentional crash on purpose? and was it just because joseph stack was in a distraught frame of mind, or is there a particular target here? we do know that the irs had offices housed in this building. there is some question about whether he was targeting those government offices. again, at this point, until they're able to conduct their interviews with his family, with
his friends, go to the airport and find out what people at that georgetown municipal airport saw in terms of his behavior, whether he talked to them, that's just an unknown at this point. and there on the right-hand side of your screen, you're seeing kxan's video of joseph stack's home burning, the smoke heading into the sky there. and again, the word is that there was a domestic dispute that he had started that fire and then fled before police could catch up with him. and we continue to follow the new details as they're coming in now. tamron hall? >> thanks, contessa. let's go' williams here. pete, i've got a question for you. again, we're looking at a lot of things here, so i'm not asking you to speculate, but with the irs being there, for example, would they have a record of any inaction, if it had gone past the usual anger someone might have with the irs, i've asked this, covered stories before where you had individuals who have targeted the irs for many reasons, mostly, obviously, they're upset on the way they
feel that they're being treated. would they be able to answer us by now if they are aware of this joseph stack? >> well, what we're checking right now is to see whether he had ever had any litigation with the government over taxes. whether he was involved in any action that actually went to court. i can't answer that question right now. but, certainly, they would have records of anybody who got into tax disputes with them, because they start out as, you know, the irs takes action and you can ultimately go to tax court and ultimately to federal court as well. and so that's one very big question here, whether he had some specific beef about the irs. and, you know, there are certainly circumstantial reasons to think that he was targeting this building. nothing definitive at this point, but it's been a working theory of some of the investigators on this case that, in fact, he was. and i think that's one of the
reasons why you're seeing such a quick action by law enforcement to say this is not an act of terrorism. for example, the police chief in austin at a briefing just a few minutes ago said, the word he used was, i can tell you categorically that this is not an act of terrorism. now, of course, a couple of reasons to say that. one is he's an american citizen. but that doesn't rule out an act of terrorism. timothy mcveigh, of course, was an american citizen as well, and that was the biggest act of terrorism in the u.s. before 9/11. but it does appear that there are certainly circumstantial reasons to think that he'd targeted this building, this commercial building, because the irs was in it. >> pete, i hate to interrupt you, but we've got kxan confirming that there is a manifesto authored by joseph stack. i have it with me. again, i want to emphasize, this is confirmed by emphasize this confirmed by kxan, this manifesto. i'm reading part of it here.
these are the words of joseph stack then we have some answers here, what we've been talking about. it reads in part, if you're reading this now, you're no doubt asking yourself, why did this have to happen. the simple truth is complicated and has been coming for a long time. the writing process started months ago, looming realization there was not enough therapy in the world that can fix a problem. goes on to say, i'm reading this for the first time so editing what i'm reading. he then indicates -- >> reporter: tamron, i've read the whole thing. we've been holding off on specifically saying he wrote it. if you're saying the local authorities confirmed he wrote it. >> i'm saying kxan the affiliate in austin, texas, through being on the ground there, and i hope working with the local authorities, they are confirming this. nbc news has not independently confirmed this. >> reporter: let's put it this way, whoever wrote it, it is a
diatribe, one person's diatribe against the federal government tore a number of -- it's a long bill of particulars. it rales against the health care system, the bailout that aided corporate companies but left taxpayers in the lurch. the author specifically says he had a long-running fight with the irs. cost him $40,000 and ten years of his life and wiped out his retirement savings. that's why i said earlier there was some question about whether there was a court case here. throughout this somewhat -- i think you'd have to say unhinged diatribe, there's certainly specific allegations and concerns about the tax laws -- that's not the irs's fault. he says the tax laws are far too complicated for any taxpayer could understand. i don't think anyone disagrees with that. then he goes into a specific
list of problems he's had with the irs. >> you are right to say like we've seen in so many cases when people leave these kinds of manifestos, it is rambling. it is long. he says whatever happened to no taxation without representation. you point out he mentions the bailout and a number of insulting words directed at the federal government, the irs. asking about whether he would be able to get justice or not, there's also some mention of a person that is believed to be a tax accountant. there also may be a debt that may have been owed here. so again, kxan is confirming this manifesto said to be from joseph stack. that is the man believed to have been behind the pilot of this small aircraft that slammed into this building upon this breaking news. you have witnesses saying you could hear a roar.
it did not look or hear, sound as if this pilot was easing up. it looked, from their vantage point, like he was slamming into that building and directing his aircraft to that building. combine that with this manifesto and we now know a lot more certainly about this at 10:00 a.m. local time in dallas -- i mean in austin when this news first broke. contessa. >> reporter: as we have every time a building gets hit by an airplane since 9/11, the automatic question is whether it's related to terrorism. now investigators are saying absolutely not. let's go to nbc's mike viqueira. it's something the white house felt the need to address. >> reporter: that's right. we have word from the white house press pool. somewhere between the white house and andrews air force base as the press pool was traveling with the president in a motorcade today, the following information was imparted by robert gibbs to that press pool. the president was briefed by john brennan, the president's
homeland security adviser here at the white house. not appear to be terrorism. does not appear to be terrorism. that is the news from john brennan to the president and therefore passed onto us by robert gibbs sometime after the fact. the president winging his way aboard air force one for a western swing, denver, colorado, and las vegas and henderson, nevada where he's got political as well as town hall meetings scheduled. he'll be gone two days and back to the white house. contessa. >> mike viqueira, thank you very much for that. it's pivotal that the president says people on the ground are knocking down these questions about terrorism, because they have good leads that make this seem like this is attributable to a particular grievance joseph stack may have had against the government, against specifically the irs which has offices housed in this echelon building in austin, texas. again, the time line we're looking at here is 9:40 central
time this morning, that local police in austin were called to the home of joseph stack for a domestic disturbance. they said he set his house on fire and took off for the georgetown municipal airport 30 miles north of austin, texas, jumped into his plane, a small piper cherokee, drove it to austin where it crashed into this building. the question is, was the crash intentional? did joseph stack intend to kill himself? ntsb is heading here to sort through the wreckage to determine if there was a problem with the plane. we've already seen people in fbi jackets, local police, local fire department there on the scene sorting through the rubble of this plane crash. as it stands, we know two people injured, one person unaccounted for, the pilot presumed dead at this point. we're staying on top of this breaking news here on msnbc. quick break here. we'll be right back.
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welcome back. i'm tamron hall live at msnbc headquarters where we continue to follow breaking news out of texas where a small plane crashed into the side of a building that houses the irs. they have confirmed the pilot was joseph stack. we're plerng more about a connection to a house fire at joseph stack's home not far from the accident. pete, before we went to break, we were discussing a manifesto said to be authored by joseph stack. there's said to be confirmation and we can talk much more about what's in it. >> reporter: right. federal officials believe this rambling diatribe, i guess is the word for it, on the internet was, in fact, written by joseph stack. it's a long recitation whaf he says is his problems with the tax law in general and the irs
in general. he said the tax code was changed to the disadvantage with people like him. he said he got into a dispute with the irs that ultimately cost him all his retirement savings, $40,000 and what he describes as 10 years of his life. i think based on this for starters, there's certainly a theory, and nothing more than that at this point, that after he set fire to his house this morning and police got a call about a domestic dispute, he got into an airplane and crashed it into a commercial building that contained the offices of the irs. while authorities are at this hour unable to confirm that's why he did it, obviously they can't talk to him, i guess you can say it's the strong working theory that when he crashed that plane he was aiming at the irs building. >> well, pete, as you said this ranting starts off, if you're